Maria Sharapova admits to failing drug test, will be provisionally banned

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(CNN)  – Maria Sharapova, who has long been the world’s richest female athlete, will be suspended from tennis after she admitted to failing a drug test at the Australian Open in January.

Maria Sharapovia - the world's richest female athlete
Maria Sharapova – the world’s richest female athlete

A sombre looking Sharapova, speaking at a press conference in Los Angeles Monday, said she’d been taking the drug, meldonium, since 2006 and didn’t realize it was declared a banned substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) at the start of 2016.

The International Tennis Federation, about an hour after her admission, then said on its website that the 28-year old would be provisionally banned from March 12 “pending determination of the case.” The usual penalty for first-time offenders is two years.

The failed drug test came on January 26 — after Sharapova lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals — and she was charged with an anti-doping violation on March 2, the governing body additionally said.

There was much speculation that Sharapova’s Monday briefing with reporters centered on retirement plans following an increasing number of injuries, but the failed test was a bigger bombshell. And it came in the wake of match-fixing allegations that rocked tennis in Melbourne.

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

“A few days ago I received a letter from the (International Tennis Federation) that I failed a drug test at the Australian Open,” the five-time grand slam winner said in the press conference that was streamed live on Sharapova’s website. “I did fail the test and take full responsibility for it. For the past 10 years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my doctor, my family doctor, and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name, meldonium, which I did not know.

“It’s very important for you to understand for 10 years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had been legally taking the medicine for the past 10 years. But on January 1 the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance, which I had not known.”

Sharapova would later say she began taking the medication, which can be used to treat heart issues, after irregular EKGs and being deficient in magnesium. Her family also has a history of diabetes, she added.

Her revelation came on the same day that Russia’s Olympic ice dance gold medalist Ekaterina Bobrova said she failed a doping test for the same drug.

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